2021 NFL Week 18 Recap

Divisional duels, clown organizations doing the clowning and a finale for the ages are among the comments for all 32 teams in the first-ever NFL Week 18 Recap!

Chargers 32
Raiders 35 (OT)

This was so much better than the kneel-down scenario.

Daniel Carlson drinks for free in Las Vegas! But so should Rich Bisaccia; the Raiders interim coach, in his 38th NFL season, is believed to be only the third interim NFL coach since 1960 to lead a team to the playoffs — and considering he’s going up against a Bengals team that hasn’t won a playoff game in over three decades, he might actually mess around and win a game or two. I know Vegas is known for star power but that shouldn’t apply to this coaching search, even if Bisaccia’s team goes one-and-done in the postseason.

And let’s give Justin Herbert his due for one of the most unbelievable late game performances I’ve ever seen. A QB making fourth-and-long look routine is just what a franchise notoriously snake-bitten in late-game scenarios needs — and it’s probably going to spark another round of debates here in Washington.

49ers 27
Rams 24 (OT)

Ah, yes — a classic playoff matchup between San Francisco and Dallas, their first postseason meeting since the 1994 NFC Championship Game. May history repeat itself.

Speaking of which … why do I get the feeling history is about to repeat itself in Los Angeles? The Rams were blown out by the Cardinals in Week 4 and neither of these teams seems playoff-ready. For that reason, this might be the closest (but not necessarily the best) game of Wild Card Weekend.

Seahawks 38
Cardinals 30

If this was Russell Wilson’s final act as a Seattle Seahawk, what a way to go out. Russ’ next move will be one of the three biggest storylines of the 2022 offseason.

Meanwhile, Arizona is limping into the playoffs having lost four of its final five games, but got the best possible playoff matchup: The same Rams team every bit as suspect as they are, and just happened to beat in L.A. as part of the Cards’ 7-0 start. The winner of this game is a divisional round sacrificial lamb.

Patriots 24
Dolphins 33

Brian Flores owns the Patriots. Yet somehow, he’s out of a job in a world where Joe Judge keeps his. Dysfunction is as dysfunction does and Miami will be mired in mediocrity as long as their absentee owner remains in place (from afar). Tua deserves better.

New England is back in the playoffs, but it just hits different without the Tom Brady mystique. I’d be willing to bet Buffalo feels the same way and can’t wait to dispatch of its hated — and very beatable — rival Saturday night.

Saints 30
Falcons 20

Four different QBs. An NFL-record 58 different players to start for New Orleans. The Saints have no reason to hang their heads for barely missing the playoffs in Year 1 of life without Drew Brees. If they can somehow swing a trade for Russell Wilson, this is a Super Bowl team.

I know it’ll probably be too expensive to do right away, but Atlanta needs to start looking to move on from Matt Ryan and get a QB of the future. I know he moved into ninth place on the all-time passing touchdowns list but there’s a better chance of Matty Ice thawing out going into his age-37 season than having enough left in the tank to get the Falcons back into the postseason.

Jets 10
Bills 27

Buffalo has a special QB — and if Josh Allen can knock off the hated Patriots in the playoffs, he’ll have a special place in the Bills Mafia for the rest of his life.

Like their NFC counterparts, the New York Jets will have two top 10 draft selections in the 2022 NFL Draft. If (when) Gang Green blows this potential franchise-altering gift — well, I don’t know what to tell you, Jets fans. The football gods are fickle.

Panthers 17
Bucs 41

I never thought anyone would put his position’s all-time numbers as far out of reach as Jerry Rice has for receivers — and then Tom Brady happened. Not only is he doing it for QBs, he’s also jacked up Gronk’s numbers in both the record book and the pocket book. This man ain’t human.

Matt Rhule, however, is quite mortal. If he tries to save his job with another recycled Gruden, he might as well just quit now and collect his severance until his inevitable pursuit of the next high-profile college gig.

Washington 22
Giants 7

Not that Terry McLaurin had to officially become the first Washington receiver with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons since Henry Ellard (1994-96) for us to know this, but No. 17 is the Burgundy and Gold’s most important, most productive and most likable player on its roster. The only thing as important as securing a franchise quarterback is ensuring McLaurin remains here long enough to reap the benefits of that acquisition. Washington will almost certainly screw up the new name (maybe even before its announcement) but it can’t afford to screw up a no-brainer signing.

And it’s good to see Ron Rivera get the last laugh over Joe Judge, the first Giants coach to lose 13 games in a season, including the franchise’s first streak of six straight double digit losses to end the year, thanks to his stone cold idiocy.

The Giants have an opportunity to lay the foundation for a turnaround with two top 10 picks in the upcoming draft — and if Judge and/or GM Dave Gettleman are around to put their fingerprints on those picks, it will be gross negligence on the part of this lost organization.

Steelers 16
Ravens 13 (OT)

If this is indeed the end of the road for Ben Roethlisberger, it’s good that his career comes full circle in Baltimore. Although I don’t see a storybook ending for Big Ben in Kansas City, it is fitting that he’ll get to make one last playoff run alongside the real NFL Sack King. (And don’t talk to me about Watt getting an extra game to tie Michael Strahan — Watt missed three games, thus playing in two fewer games than Strahan did before Brett Favre literally laid down for him to get it. That record has, and always will, have an asterisk.)

Baltimore, meanwhile, is wrestling with its first losing season since 2015 and only the second of the 14-year John Harbaugh era. Assuming 2022 doesn’t include the relentless onslaught of injuries that derailed this season, the Ravens will be back to contention in 2022 — and maybe even better off if the improved draft status yields some star power they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Bengals 16
Browns 21

With Joe Burrow rested and ready for a rematch with the Raiders, I’m banking on Cincinnati getting its first playoff win since 1990. Book it.

You can book this too: Baker Mayfield has one last chance to prove he’s the franchise QB he was drafted to be — if that. Nobody selects a guy first overall to be interchangeable with Case Keenum. If I’m Cleveland, I’m dealing Baker to the QB-thirstiest team I can find (Washington?) and going all-in on bringing Russell Wilson back to his birth state.

Packers 30
Lions 37

Memo to Aaron Rodgers: Your 38:0 TD-to-INT ratio in division play since 2020 won’t be easily replicated if you leave the NFC North — especially if you go to Denver in the stacked AFC West. If you really want a late-career Super Bowl, staying in Green Bay is by far your best option.

Detroit will pick second overall in the 2022 NFL draft and they have to hope the Michigan homeboy Aiden Hutchinson is still on the board when they’re on the clock. I know the Packers sat their starters in the second half Sunday but the Lions aren’t as far from competitive as their record suggests.

Bears 17
Vikings 31

Let’s be real: No possible result would save either of these coaches. Chicago should have blown out Matt Nagy a year ago and Mike Zimmer has always been a good coach in a bad situation. (Update: the Bears and Vikings not only fired the coaches, but their GMs too.) I’m just thankful he stayed employed in Minnesota long enough to miss out on the Dallas opening because Zimmer with the Cowboys would have been scary good. Here’s hoping the Giants don’t read this NFL Recap.

Titans 28
Texans 25

Tennessee avenged its worst loss of the season to ensure the remainder of its season is played at home in Nashville. If they can get King Henry back after the first-round bye, this is the biggest threat to Kansas City in the AFC.

And in Houston, the only person who thinks David Culley is safe is David Culley. He doesn’t deserve the inevitable pulling of the rug out from under him.

Colts 11
Jaguars 26

My favorite part of NFL Week 18 is that Jacksonville’s literal clown show won the same week the man who denies being the big, red rubber nose in New York becomes the first Giants coach to lose six straight games by double-digit margins. If the Jaguars don’t hire Jim Caldwell as their next head coach, TIAA Bank Field is going to look like a convention for It fans.

Not only did Carson Wentz fail to finish the season without a road interception, he failed to make the playoffs by playing his worst game of the season (and his career, if you go by his 4.4 QBR) in Indy’s easiest game on their schedule. It’s amazing that two franchises have wasted a first-round pick on this guy.

Cowboys 51
Eagles 26

Given Philly didn’t play many of their starters, Dallas winning this game in this fashion isn’t nearly as impressive as the final stats imply. But give it up for Dak Prescott having a record-setting comeback season and the Cowboys’ unprecedented spreading of the wealth to seal up a favorable matchup in a home playoff game.

Philadelphia is almost certain to go one-and-done in the playoffs but 2021 was a fine first step for the Nick Sirianni era. A fine performance on the road against the defending champs would be a compelling case for Jalen Hurts to remain QB1 in Philly.

Chiefs 28
Broncos 24

The road to the Super Bowl won’t come through Kansas City but what’s better to take on the road than Patrick Mahomes and a suddenly-stout Chiefs defense? This is still very much the team to beat in the AFC.

In Denver, much will change in 2022. Vic Fangio is already out as head coach. There’s likely to be a change in ownership. Lord knows the Broncos have tried a different quarterback every year since Peyton Manning limped away. This might be the most crucial offseason in franchise history.

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